Second-hand retailers score during recession

Mon Oct 5, 2009 7:39am EDT
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By Ed Stoddard and Tim Gaynor

DALLAS/PHOENIX (Reuters) - The recession has taken its toll on many large U.S. retailers but smaller ones catering to the second-hand market are flourishing as the cash-strapped seek the holy grail of the American consumer: a bargain.

In August the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops (NARTS), which claims to be the world's largest resale trade association, said a survey of its membership about second quarter sales in 2009 compared to the same period in 2008 showed increasing turnover in the second-hand sector.

"Of the 263 stores that responded, 64.1 percent said sales increased -- with an average increase of approximately 31 percent -- 11.5 percent said sales were about the same and 24.4 percent had a decrease in sales," it said.

Dallas-based Half Price Books, a privately-held operation that mostly trades and sells used books and magazines, has seen its sales rise and has plans to open new stores.

It has opened four new stores so far this calendar year, with more due to open in the fall. It currently has 106 stores in 16 states.

"We are buying more books than ever before so people are selling ... It started last year with people coming in and selling books for gas money," said Kathy Doyle Thomas, executive vice president for marketing and real estate.

"I think people are okay with buying used ... it is also part of the growing culture of recycling," said Doyle Thomas.

Such success is rare amid a financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of work and made many think twice before they shop, which is almost a national obsession.   Continued...

<p>A woman looks at a pair of sunglasses in a mirror while shopping for second-hand goods at a Housing Works store in New York June 26, 2009. REUTERS/Jamie Fine</p>